Last month I reviewed whiskies from Port Ellen and Brora. Here now is a whisky from another distillery that closed in the early 1980s but whose post-closure releases have not developed the aura, on the whole, that the whiskies from Port Ellen and Brora have: the Lowlands distillery, Linlithgow/St. Magdalene. I’ve only reviewed two other Linlithgows (and not had very many more than two). At the time of my first review (also of a 1982 distillation), I noted that I did not know if anything distinguished the malt released under the Linlithgow name from that released as St. Magdalene. Almost six years later, I still don’t; if you know the answer, please write in below. This particular Linlithgow was released in 2011 or 2012 by Mackillop’s Choice. I’m not entirely sure if Mackillop’s Choice is still on the go (another question for the better informed to answer)—at any rate, I don’t see any 2019 releases from them on Whiskybase and there were only a handful in 2018. Anyway, let’s get to the whisky! Continue reading
This Scott’s Selection Linlithgow was also split with European hand model and retired tightrope walker, Florin. Unlike the 1982-2003, bought at the same time, this one does not say St. Magdalene on the label and is also not a total cipher. It has a Malt Maniacs score and Serge seems to have reviewed it and not liked it very much. Or at least he reviewed a Linlithgow 1975-1999 from Scott’s of the same abv. Odds seem poor that there were two separate releases from the same year with the same abv but I’ve also not seen references to other Scott’s bottles split for the European and American markets (Serge refers to an EU airport purchase). He didn’t like his very much (79 points), but the usually far more parsimonious Johannes gave that bottle 83 points on the Malt Maniacs’ Monitor; and 83 points from Johannes is usually like high 80s from anyone else.
Linlithgow is the other name under which the malt from the (now defunct) St. Magdalene distillery in the Lowlands was bottled. I believe Linlithgow is the name of the village in which the distillery was located. As to whether there was some key to when one name or the other was used, I don’t know. At any rate, this bottle from Scott’s Selection says Linlithgow and St. Magdaelene (in parentheses) as you can see alongside. There is no information out there on this bottle (that I could find at any rate). After staring at it for a couple of years I decided to take a flyer on it and as luck would have it, a friend was willing to split it. As you will see, I did not rue this decision.
Linlithgow/St. Magdalene, 1982-2003 (55.4%; Scott’s Selection; from a bottle split with a friend)
Nose: Rich, polished wood and a dark, honeyed sweetness; some acidity too. With a little more time there’s some lime and also a greater maltiness and some pepper too. The lime expands with time and gets a little muskier and then a little zestier (there’s more of a bitter quality, that is). With a lot more time the lime gets brighter again and some light smoke emerges as well. A few drops of water bring out some tart apple and quite a bit of brine. Continue reading
St. Magdalene, also known as Linlithgow, was one of the casualties of the wave of distillery closures in the early 1980s. In terms of its current status the gurus seem to put it a little below Port Ellen and Brora: Serge has it in the “Premier Cru Classé” in his rankings. It must be said though that it doesn’t seem to inspire quite that level of devotion among the rank and file as do Port Ellen or Brora or even Caperdonich or Rosebank or Lochside (all of which closed later). This may be because there’s not as much malt out there from St. Magdalene/Linlithgow for those of us who came later in the game to have tried. I’ve myself barely sampled any of the meagre offerings available on the US market.
The bottle I am reviewing today, however, is fairly uncontroversially considered one of the great releases of the last decade and half. It was part of Diageo’s respected Rare Malts series and has received very high scores from most respected sources: most notably, the redoubtable Johannes van den Heuvel (the now retired founder of the Malt Maniacs, whose Malt Madness is one of the few essential whisky sites) has given it a score of 97/100. That score would be stratospheric by any standard but is particularly striking coming from the usually parsimonious and unexcitable Johannes. I was thus very excited to be able to taste it after getting a sample in a swap; however, I’ve held off for a long time in reviewing it as I have to admit I’m not sure what point there is in someone like me reviewing something so widely lauded by my betters: if i love it as well I add an inconsequential “me too” to the chorus, and who really cares if I don’t? Still, I’ve rarely allowed the fear of redundancy to trump my love of the sound of my own voice, and so here goes. Continue reading